45% of employees have dated a co-worker, but what are the rules on office romance?

Although Summer is the season most associated with a holiday fling, research by Reboot Digital has discovered that you are twice as likely to fall for a co-worker during the cold winter months. In a study of more than 2000 professionals, it was discovered that over 4 in 10 (45%) had succumbed to the lure of an office fling.

The study found that as soon as the temperature cools down outside, things hot-up in the office. A whopping 66% of workers stated that their office romance began during the winter months. In fact, a total of 31% of first kisses between colleagues take place at an office party.

Not only had so many employees dated a fellow 9 to 5er, but 15% had actually been romantically involved with their boss. So, what exactly are the rules around office dating?

What are the rules when you embark on an office romance?

However, according to the research, most bosses do not approve of workplace wooing, yet according to EmploymentLawFirms.com, “companies are steering away from addressing office romance in their employee policies”. Although it may not officially be against the rules, it is frowned upon and, 26% of employers state that they would prefer their staff not to date each other.

What’s more, although employees are free to date, some companies are getting their staff to sign a “love contract.” This is a document that co-workers have to sign, stating that their relationship is consensual, and to agree not to engage in certain behaviors, like public displays of affection in the office, or worse, workplace retaliation if the relationship comes to an end.

Due to company policy on office romance, or just a general want to adhere to workplace etiquette, 38% of employees have kept their dating on the down-low. The taboo of workplace relationships goes even further, with 20% of office flings involving a married partner.

This perhaps explains why there are not always happy endings for our enamored employees, with 6% confessing that they had lost their job due to a liaison. A further 9% had been driven to leave their job due to irreconcilable relations with co-workers.

But which industries are more likely to bend the romancing rules? Recruitment company Careerbuilder found out in a study that Hospitality was the most common industry for an office romance, with 47% of respondents admitting to dating a co-worker. This was followed closely by Financial Services (45%), Transportation & Utilities (43%), Information Technology (40%), Healthcare (38%). 

Taking your work home with you?

Employees tell us their worst workplace relationship stories:

“I started dating a guy from our finance department. It was going well for a few months, until I started to see another side to him. He became possessive and a general ‘glass is half empty’ kind of guy. When I finally broke it off I thought my only saving grace would be that we worked in different departments, and wouldn’t have to see each other that much at work. My ex took every opportunity to call me up; from asking how to use the new coffee machine, to demanding the email addresses of other colleagues. Things got worse when it came to an office party we were having. He saw me talking to a male colleague and started telling everyone how I left him because he ‘didn’t make enough money’. Luckily for him I was about as interested in my job as I was in salvaging our relationship – I soon found somewhere new” Catrina A, 26, Recruitment Officer.

“I worked as a realtor for a few years, and in that time, I started covertly dating a co-worker. When the sexual tension got too much in the office we would arrange to meet in a vendor’s house, when we knew they would be out, and we would do the deed. Another colleague caught wind of what we were doing and, to scupper my chance at a promotion, told our superior about it all. Needless to say, that ended my foray into real estate.” Rob, 34, HR Executive.

My employer was really strict about dating colleagues and said it interfered too much with our work. So, when I started dating a guy a few desks away we decided to not tell a soul. We’d often send naughty messages back and forth over email with inconspicuous subject headings, until one day I received a team-wide message from my manager asking someone to “make hard copies” of a report for our next meeting. Instead of forwarding this to my secret lover with a cheeky response, I pressed “reply to all”- telling my whole team that I could make something else hard if they wanted. I still cringe about it to this day!” Sara M, 32, Marketing Executive.

“I had not long started my job as a project co-ordinator, when I really started hitting it off with a female co-worker. We were dating casually and, as these things do, word spread around the office. Little did I know that she had also dated my desk neighbour…for 2 years! Things got a little awkward after that.” Dillon S, 25, Project Co-ordinator.

“I was working in a very male-dominated field. I also had to work late quite often. This dangerous routine led me to kiss a married colleague one evening when everyone had gone home. Not wanting to be branded as a homewrecker, I didn’t pursue the relationship. My colleague on the other hand had other ideas, and he left his wife after realising the marriage wasn’t what he wanted. We didn’t end up dating, and he eventually got back together with his wife, but would constantly leave me notes and write messages detailing his undying love for me. I had to leave the company in the end.” Ceris M, 30, Car sales assistant.

“My wife wanted to get her career back on track after having our first child. There was a perfect role for her in my office, and I pulled a few strings so that she would get it. Spending so much time together eventually took its toll, she couldn’t handle working under me, and we both had very different ideas about how our jobs should be done. We ended up getting a divorce…But we still work together now!” Tim W, 41, Communications Manager.